The Tigers played a clean, well pitched game and took advantage of a few key Twins mistakes to even the series at a game apiece on Saturday night.
Things started well for the Tigers, though the squander monster was still in evidence. Drew Hutchison allowed a single but no more in the top of the first, and the Tigers lineup got to work.
With one out in the first, Riley Greene ripped a single to right against Dylan Bundy. Right fielder Matt Wallner misplayed the hop and the ball went right through the wickets to the wall as Greene motored around to third base. Javier Báez spanked a single into center field, and the Tigers were on the board. Eric Haase followed with a line shot off the tip of third baseman Gio Urshela’s glove into left field, and the Tigers were in business. Unfortunately, Harold Castro grounded out to second and Spencer Torkelson struck out.
Hutchison got into some trouble in the second courtesy of a pair of walks, but was able to escape without taking any damage. Assistant GM and broadcaster of the Erie SeaWolves, Greg Gania, was filling in for Dan Dickerson on the Tigers Radio Network, and he and Jim Price spent much of the inning discussing the new rules and how Gania had seen them playing out in the minor leagues. He seems to expect more stolen bases, as you’d guess, but didn’t think the pitch clock and step off rules would take very long for major leaguers to adapt to next season.
Brendon Davis made his major league debut at the plate to lead off the second, briefing getting his family and the crowd in general excited as he lifted a deep fly ball to right center field that was caught by center fielder Mark Contreras. Welcome to Comerica. The Tigers went in order from there, while a Carlos Correa single was the only baserunner for the Twins in the top of the third, though they did drive Hutchison’s pitch count over 60. Hutchison finished the inning by freezing Jose Miranda with a truly nasty swing back changeup on the outer edge for a called strike three.
Baddoo grounded out to start the bottom of the third, while Greene ripped another drive to center field that Contreras hauled in 410 feet from home plate. Báez grounded out to end the inning.
Riley Greene's fly out to CF: 410 feet, 109.3 mph, .590 xBA— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) October 1, 2022
Hutchison allowed singles from Urshela and Jake Cave to open the fourth, but Gary Sanchez was there with the double play ball. Urshela advanced to third, but there were two outs. Wallner spoiled a couple of good pitches in a seven pitch battle, but ultimately whiffed on a high fastball to end the frame.
Eric Haase led off the bottom of the fourth in style. He got a 1-1 fastball and torched it to left center field for his 13th homer of the season.
Harold Castro grounded out, and then we got a truly classic 2022 Spencer Torkelson plate appearance.
Bundy missed with a curve for ball one, then dropped an absolute meatball right down the middle. Torkelson recognized it and cut loose...fouling it off. The count went to 2-2 and Bundy did it again, dropping a curveball center cut in the zone. That one was also fouled off. Finally Bundy tried a fastball at the top of the zone and Torkelson hammered a drive to right that would have hit the wall, but Wallner was there to make the catch. Frustrating. Davis struck out to end the inning.
The Twins got on the board in the fifth when Contreras led off with a solo shot to right field. Luis Arraez followed with a drive to right field that Victor Reyes did a nice job cutting off, holding Arraez to a single. This brought a corrective visit from Chris Fetter as Hutchison’s pitch count neared 100. As usual, the Fetter visit worked out, as Hutch struck out Carlos Correa, but Nick Gordon followed with a single and the Twins had runners at first and second with one out, and that was the end of Hutch’s night as Jose Cisnero took over.
Presumably this was Hutchison’s last appearance of the season. He’ll finish with a 4.53 ERA and 105.1 innings eaten. Very solid work for the journeyman right-hander.
Cisnero hasn’t been very sharp since returning from his shoulder injury and had some trouble. He did punch out Jose Miranda for the second out, but Gio Urshela singled through the left side to score Arraez and tie the game. Akil Baddoo ill-advisedly tried to throw Arraez out at home, giving up 90 feet to both Gordon and Urshela in the process. Cisnero then walked Cave to load the bases, drawing another visit from Fetter. This conference was apparently about Urshela at second, as Cisnero whirled and fired to Harold Castro to pick the third baseman off and end the inning with the score still tied.
After two quick outs, Akil Baddoo beat out an infield single in the bottom of the fifth. Baddoo stretched a pretty good lead off of first base, drawing throws from Bundy and prompting Kirk Gibson to discuss how a young player has to get over the fear of being picked off and really push their leads to a limit.
“When did you get over that fear?” asked Matt Shepherd. “Sixth grade,” replied Gibby.
Riley Greene lifted a deep fly ball to left to end the inning.
Needing innings to bridge to late innings crew, AJ Hinch went with Daniel Norris in the sixth. The lefty had no trouble, finishing a quick inning with a strikeout of Contreras.
Dylan Bundy’s day came to an end after the fifth, as RHP Ronny Henriquez took over in the bottom of the sixth. He was a little wild early on, hitting Báez and falling behind 3-0 to Eric Haase and his Popeye-level forearms. The Tigers catcher lifted another deep fly ball, but this time it was to center field, falling short of the mark. Báez did tag up and take second base on the play. Harold Castro followed with a ground ball to first base, but Henriquez couldn’t handle the toss from first baseman Arraez and the ball clanged off his glove. Báez roared around to score, and the Tigers led again, 3-2. Torkelson and Davis struck out to end the inning.
Arraez lined out to open the seventh, and then Hinch pulled Norris in favor of Alex Lange to deal with Correa. He got the Twins’ shortstop to ground out, and then retired Gordon on another ground ball to end the frame. The Tigers went in order in the bottom half.
In the eighth, Jose Miranda led off with a single and was replaced by Billy Hamilton as a pinch runner. Hamilton quickly took second when Lange bounced a changeup and Haase failed to block it. Urshela grounded out but Hamilton reached third on the play.
With Jake Cave coming up, Hinch decided for an early call to Gregory Soto to try and hold the lead. Seemed like an odd decision to bring in a wild pitcher with a speedy baserunner on third in a one-run game, but okay then. The options are running thin with Joe Jiménez injured. Rocco Baldelli countered with Gilberto Celestino, and Soto walked him. Then he walked Gary Sanchez. Baldelli pinch hit Ryan Jeffers for Wallner and he grounded one to Soto’s right. Soto tried to get glove on it, but instead deflected it right to Kreidler, who started a quick double play turn to end the inning. Whew.
The Tigers got a single from Haase in the bottom of the eighth but no more, and so it was Andrew Chafin time? Interesting usage, Mr. Hinch. Let’s see how it turned out for them.
Chafin struck out Contreras on three pitches, but Arraez singled through the right side, bringing up Carlos Correa. The shortstop flared a line drive to right off the end of the bat, but Victor Reyes made a superb catch, laying out fully to haul it in. Chafin punched out Gordon, and that was the ballgame.
The Tigers record moves to 64-93 with five games left on the calendar. The final home game of the 2022 season will get underway at 12:10 p.m. EDT on Sunday. LHP Joey Wentz gets the start, while the Twins have yet to announce. The Tigers will then head to Seattle to close out the season against a Mariners club that just clinched their first postseason berth since 2001.